Every business exists and thrives because of its customers. The entrepreneurs who open a lead over their competition are those who develop a deep understanding of who their current and future customers are, and align their business accordingly.
For a startup or small business with only dozens of clients, it’s not that difficult to get to know each customer and figure out what their preferences are. As the business grows though and customers start to number in the thousands or millions, knowing what your customer takes on a more formal automated approach that heavily relies on collecting and analyzing customer data.
This is why the accuracy of customer data is crucial since it is the foundation of your current and future business plans.
1. Use Multiple Communication Channels
Interact with your current and prospective customers across a diverse range of channels. There are a number of reasons why this is important for data collection.
First, relying on just one channel could give you a skewed view of your target market. For instance, younger demographics are likely to prefer live chat and social media communication while older generations will dominate email and phone calls. If you rely on just one channel, you could be missing out on prospects who’d actually be interested in your business.
Second, multiple channels allow you to collect multiple types and layers of data on each customer. For example, the type of data you can obtain via social media may not necessarily be the same as the data you’d gather from a phone call or email.
2. Study Real-time Behavior
You never really have enough data for any one customer. The more you interact with them, the more the opportunities to gather fresh information and thus the clearer you’ll understand them. Paying attention to the real-time behaviour of your customers will provide much deeper insights on their actions and reactions.
For example, if you have an e-commerce site, take a look at how much time a customer spends on the entire site and on specific pages. What content excites them and what makes them lose interest?
You could gather behavioural data using your own custom web or mobile apps, the website host analytics tools or Google Analytics. Even a review of application and system logs with apps such as Papertrail could give you behavioral clues that will help you deliver a better service. (source: https://papertrailapp.com/log-management)
3. Keep Track of Referrals
A failure to track where a customer learned about your business from is a costly mistake. By not monitoring this data, you won’t know what marketing strategies are paying off and which ones are ineffective. It’s easier to track online referrals than offline ones but both are equally important.
If a customer physically comes to your premises or directly goes to your website, set up a mechanism perhaps at the end of the transaction, enquiry or visit, where they would specify where they learned about your business from. A record of referral sources for each transaction can inform not just how to best interact with prospective customers but can also highlight untapped opportunities for cross-selling.
4. Leverage Social Media
Studies show that the average millennial spends more than five hours each day perusing their social media account. That’s just under a fifth of their entire day and about a third of their waking hours. With millennials now the largest market segment and likely to be the most important for years to come, businesses cannot afford to ignore social networking sites.
Social platforms can be a rich source of customer data. For example, most social networking platforms have an elaborate analytics module that provides a general overview of your account’s followers including locations, income bands, house values, car ownership, topics of greatest interest, diet preferences etc. Such insights can increase your ability to grow your income across multiple streams.
5. Fill the Gaps
Collecting customer information via various sources is vital but it does have some disadvantages. For instance, after a while, the completeness of information you hold will vary considerably from customer to customer. In the absence of complete and comparable data, you cannot accurately segment your customer base or tailor your marketing efforts to a specific target market.
Develop creative ways of requesting missing data from your customers without coming across as intrusive. For example, on your website, you can prompt returning customers to fill in the missing details on their profile as they checkout. Of course, the request must be such that the customer is free to ignore it. After all, they are already doing the most important thing for you which is buying your product.
By following these proven techniques for collecting reliable customer data, you can create the solid foundation necessary to retain your existing customers, attract new ones and ultimately increase your sales.